Here are a few thoughts of mine representative of my own working conceptual scheme regarding dual loyalty. I think it is the same conceptual scheme shared by many people – I don’t endorse it, of course, in the normative sense: I don’t believe in loyalty to countries, I don’t think that patriotism is a value, I don’t think that borders have any inherent significance, I don’t like national identities, I think we would better off without them. But I am trying pretheoretic baby steps in the direction of theorizing about the allegation of dual loyalty as it is used by “patriots”.
It is logically possible for one to have “allegiance” both to her native country and to another country, and still not fall under the label of “having dual loyalties”. I take it as a necessary condition for dual loyalties that the person in question harbors more loyalty towards the other country than her own native country. If, on a scale of loyalty to country from 0 to 100, with 0 signifying indifference and 100 signifying the maximum amount of patriotism possible, if she has in her heart 90 units of loyalty for her country of birth (US), then she is required to harbor in her heart no more units of loyalty than 90 for Israel. Everything from 90 downwards is loyalty to Israel that is perfectly acceptable. Even equal loyalty to both the US and Israel are ok: dual loyalty requires that the person in question be more loyal to Israel than to the US for her to be properly considered a member of the set of people with dual loyalties. Therefore, being equally loyal to each country is fine.
But what about cases where the interests of the US are incompatible with the interests of Israel? Let’s take the easy case, where we are talking about interests of the same importance, say the person in question has to make a decision that will inevitably result either in the loss of 5% of US per capita wellbeing, or 5% of Israel’s per capita wellbeing. I take it as a necessary condition for someone to be dual loyal that she would choose to sacrifice the US wellbeing for the sake of Israel’s wellbeing. If, on the other hand, she always prioritizes the US interests over Israeli interests of equal importance, she is not dual loyal.
What about someone who has erratic behavior, i.e someone who sometimes prioritizes the interests of the one country, sometimes those of the other? This person then is, according to our theory, sometimes engaging in patriotic acts and sometimes in acts that evince dual loyalty.
But what about cases of incompatible interests where there is significant difference in the size of the US and Israeli interests that are at stake? What if the person in question can act so as to save Israel from a massive reduction in wellbeing (say, 95%reduction), but her action necessarily involves a 1%reduction in US wellbeing? I think in these cases she wouldn’t fall under dual loyalty if she prioritized the Israeli interest. But I have no principled way to decide how large the difference between the incompatible Israeli and US interests should be in order to diffuse the charge of dual loyalty in case the person acts for Israel’s sake. What if the choice is between reduction in US wellbeing by 20% and the reduction in Israeli wellbeing is 60%? I have no answer, but then I don’t need to have one because I don’t believe in patriotism 😊 , as far as I am concerned my pro-Israel friends in my country, Greece, or in the US or wherever can knock themselves out if they feel like it and be 100% loyal to Israel and 0% loyal to their countries. Welcome to my post-nationalist utopia 😊:
Mr Tom Friedman espouses precisely the conception of dual loyalty sketched above:
“I am not dual loyal. I always put America first, but I want to see Israel thrive — just like many Irish-Americans, Italian-Americans, Indian-Americans and others feel about their ancestral homelands.”
To connect all this to the discussion about Rep Omar: Mr Bret Stephens is accusing her of Antisemitism, and he does so apparently on the grounds that her speech act was invoking dual loyalties. But as we saw, “allegiance” to Israel, even in the form of extreme loyalty of the 99 units-of-loyalty variety, does not count as dual loyalty so long as the person in question is equally loyal (or more) to the US. And Rep Omar only spoke of allegiance, not of dual loyalties, and she didn’t even cast the issue as an issue about the allegiance of US Jews but as allegiance required of her. True, my theory is not even remotely as rigorous as analytic philosophy demands, but it’s a tiny layman’s step in this direction. And compared to what Mr Bret Stephens writes about the Israel/Palestine conflict in the New York Times, it’s rocket science 😊